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Women’s Health: Happiness is making you fat.

May 3, 2010

Ok, so I know that taking on Women’s Health is like shooting fish in a barrel but I don’t think it’s a waste to call them out. People read this shit. Religiously. A year and a half ago you could have caught me on the treadmill taking this shit in, mentally noting that eating fast until you’re full triples your risk of being obese. (True Women’s Health advice) Hell, the only reason I’m writing this post is because I was on the stairmaster reading this crap. I guess not too much has changed.

So here it is, one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.From the article: “Prevent Love Chub: Follow our advice to keep the ‘boyfriend layer’ at bay” by Jill Waldbieser,

Research shows that what’s good for your heart may be bad for your hips. A study published last year in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that happy people were less likely to succeed at losing weight that those with a “slightly negative and cautious outlook.”

THE FIX: Weigh in Often
It’s great to accept your body and not obsess over every last calorie, but it’s hard to feel good about yourself when none of your pants fit.

  • First of all “Block Boyfriend Bulge” is a lot better title than “Prevent Love Chub”.
  • Second, BioPsychoSocial Medicine journal? I’m dubious.
  • Third, ARE THEY FUCKING KIDDING ME???? You’re too happy to lose weight? Get yourself a little sadder and you can finally lose those extra pounds that you weren’t sad about in the first place? WHAT IS THIS BUSINESS?!

Here’s the thing, I think they are right about one thing: negative body image is often a great way to get yourself to lose weight. While some call it a soothing practice in regulation, I’ve found it takes an incredible amount of self hatred to get yourself to the gym twice a day while eating under 1300 calories. I remember lying in bed stomach cramping from hunger, unable to eat anymore because it was past my daily allotment. Now you might say, obviously I was taking my diet and workout regime too far, but I don’t think it’s unusual to be pushed further into disordered eating after starting to diet.

A nurse from the Wellness Center spoke to our FemSex class this week about eating disorders. She drew a series of concentric circles: In the middle was ED, next obsession, then disordered eating, further out restrictive dieting, and finally, normative discontent. She talked about how, unfortunately, most of our society has “normative discontent” with our bodies, and the pressure we feel to begin dieting. She said that although some can diet healthily, restrictive dieting is often the stage that sparks more disordered behavior. Losing weight is so incentivized its hard not to become obsessive. People congratulate you on your weight loss and tell you to look great, having no idea why or how you’ve lost it. Losing weight, no matted the method starts to seem SO LOGICAL.

But that’s why tearing apart these sort of inane articles is important to me. Hating your body is illogical. Making yourself unhappy so that you can lose weight is illogical. Women’s Health’s argument that weighing yourself more so that you can start hating your body so that you can start losing your weight so that you can love your body is illogical.

Losing weight is not the road to happiness, loving your body is. Why not start right now? It makes a lot more sense.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    May 3, 2010 2:46 PM

    Also probably worth mentioning, a fair number of meds that ease mental illness also cause substantial weight gain. In my case, being happier actually did make me fatter.

  2. nko permalink
    May 3, 2010 7:05 PM

    “Hating your body is illogical. Making yourself unhappy so that you can lose weight is illogical. Women’s Health’s argument that weighing yourself more so that you can start hating your body so that you can start losing your weight so that you can love your body is illogical.”

    hell yeah. thanks, becky!

  3. May 3, 2010 8:34 PM

    Everyday we see this kind of stuff and it’s a powerful message and it’s also confusing. I used to think that self esteem meant dieting, because if I really loved and cared for my body I wouldn’t let it become “unhealthy” (meaning fat). I’ve always been a bigger girl, not fat, but big enough to be called fat, as I don’t fit in a thin category either. And the recipe to cure that was self loathing, but it has never worked for me. I’m fatter now, for a number of reasons (including chronic pain and anti depressants), but I’m happier than I ever been. Guess happiness made me fat too!

  4. adam permalink
    May 3, 2010 9:10 PM

    i trust this science more (you may quibble with the language):
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126194475

    and as for self-esteem, i recommend this one:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126285591

    it makes sense to me that self-respect takes you further than low self esteem.

    but i have to be honest with you about a controversial opinion i have: i think our country has an obesity problem. but i don’t think anybody’s going to get any healthier until they can love themselves. the stigma is getting us nowhere.

    some people take it personally when i say stuff like that, but i’m talking on a country-wide scale here, not individuals. i think body positivity is the road to a healthier nation, first mentally, then physically. what do you think?

    • Jill permalink
      May 3, 2010 9:26 PM

      It’s really important to separate health from obesity. Kate Harding lays out the difference really well here. The important point is that many fat people are very healthy, very physically active, and very serious about taking care of their bodies. Eating a nutritious diet, getting moderate amounts of exercise, and having access to frequent wellness/preventative medical care can improve health for many people, regardless of whether it ultimately causes them to lose weight (because it probably won’t, since diets don’t work).

      For a variety of reasons, many people do not have access to nutritious food, do not have opportunities to get physical activity, and are not able to routinely seek medical care. Many people are fat for reasons totally unrelated to diet and exercise. Our country does have a SERIOUS problem with health care, and the lack of access to it for too many people.

      I totally agree with you that people in the U.S., on the whole, will not get any healthier unless we learn, as a society, to love and value our bodies. But I also think that loving and valuing bodies means a more accurate and expansive understanding of “health” that goes beyond just what bodies look like on the outside, since external appearance is a really unreliable indicator of the multitude of variables that constitute “health.”

      • adam permalink
        May 4, 2010 9:33 AM

        hmm… i don’t think i’m trying to fault fat people here. i also think i said mental health first.

        those links were very informative!! i didn’t know all of that about how healthy so many people can be, regardless of their weight. it’s also a very good point that there are lots of people who we might not consider “fat” who are very unhealthy (the extreme example was anorexia, i think). so i buy the idea that you can’t correlate weight and overall health on an INDIVIDUAL basis.

        on the other hand, i really can’t believe that if we’re talking about american SOCIETY, there is no correlation between health and weight. isn’t part of happy bodies about maintaining mental health in spite of social stigma attached to weight? i think this implies that there is (at least) a significant link between people’s mental health and their weight, physical health aside.

        don’t we say that people outside of the “ideal” range of body shapes are often at risk for low self esteem due to social and especially media-realted pressures? that’s definitely society’s fault, not individuals!! still, if it’s true it’s a very strong argument for the link between weight (or body shape in general) and mental health.

        as for links between our country’s weight and physical health, i suppose it still depends on who you ask…

  5. adam permalink
    May 3, 2010 9:15 PM

    oh ya, and thanks for tearing stuff apart. distilling the truth, one step at a time!!

  6. Lisa permalink
    May 3, 2010 10:42 PM

    Becky, totally agree with everything you said. Also, weighing yourself more often sounds a lot like “you should police your body constantly because it’s never good enough”. Which I guess IS what they’re trying to say. Ugh. This is why I can’t listen to radio DJs talk anymore. Everything they say is full of fat-shaming and BS like this.

  7. Jeannette permalink
    May 4, 2010 12:39 AM

    love, love, love this. thank you for posting this! i am one of those people who whether i sit around on the couch stuffing my face or eat like a bird and exercise constantly, i stay the same size. which is voluptuous 😉 and an extremely HEALTHY voluptuous woman to boot (just ask my doc)! it’s taken me a long time to finally stop fighting how my body is naturally; next step is loving myself.

  8. Maia permalink
    May 14, 2010 1:27 PM

    Adam, I think that part of the reason fat and health problems are *sometimes* correlated has more to do with socio-economic status. For example, many people in poor neighborhoods lack access to healthy food–which can lead to eating a lot of un/less healthy food, which in turn may lead to health problems. They may also lack open and/or safe spaces to exercise on a regular basis, if they live in urban areas are much more likely to have asthma (further reducing asthma), and are more likely not to have acess to health care. I don’t think we need to fight fat, I think we need to fight poverty (and other social justice issues). The link below is a guest post from an environmental and food justice blog that discusses “food deserts” and some of their effects.

    http://ejfood.blogspot.com/2010/01/guest-blog.html

  9. adam permalink
    May 17, 2010 8:49 AM

    very good point. what an article, too. big left is on the polemical!! i guess i’m not liberal enough to feel safe around his politics, but societal change as the mechanism for addressing societal issues makes a lot of sense to me. 🙂

    im getting that message loud and clear about unequal food resources. i feel like you’re also right about “fighting fat”– maybe it’s the wrong goal. working for more substantive social change that will also have a lasting effect on america’s eating habits– sounds good.

    in radio piece i linked to in my first post, they talk about how the neural pathways that regulate eating are shaped largely during childhood, and nearly impossible to reshape later on. i know the science is new, but i think it’s an exciting idea. more exciting than putting obesity down to genetics, because we can do something about it. maybe if parents emphasized healthy eating more– and the food resources were available to them– america would be better off.

    i was just living in japan, where by all accounts people tend to be slimmer than in america. i certainly got that impression. maybe that’s all genetics or some screwed up psychology, but then again, in japan healthy foods are widely available and healthy cooking is a valued tradition. well, that’s what i thought anyway… anyway, equal access food resources sounds promising to me. does anybody know what kind of initiatives there are to get involved with this kind of thing?

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